With or without a golf cart, playing an 18-hole round of golf requires spending a lot of time on your feet. With an average length of 6,700 yards (~3.8 miles) and playing four-plus hours, it is vitally important to take care of your feet and ankles. Overuse injuries of the foot and ankle are common, as are injuries related to the mechanics of your swing. Here are some tips and exercises to help protect your feet and ankles on the course:
Properly fitting golf shoes and socks are a must for the course. Your golf shoes should be snug but allow flexibility while walking and moving. Make sure that you have sufficient soft spikes on your shoes to prevent you from sliding during your swing and potentially twisting your ankle. If you’ve been wearing the same pair of shoes for a few seasons, you may need to reevaluate your footwear. If you notice you are losing traction and your feet are slipping during your swing, it may be time to replace your shoes, or at least the spikes. As a general rule, you should change your spikes at the start of the golf season. Someone who plays more often than the average golfer, or whouhange age golfer or you play on a change your spikes at the start of the golf season plays on harder surfaces, may need to change their spikes more often. When purchasing new shoes, try them on in the store and simulate your golf swing. Your feet should be comfortable and supported throughout your swing to ensure your feet and ankles are protected and the shoe isn’t too loose or too tight. Remember, the best shoes are the ones you are most comfortable with.
Make sure you properly warm up prior to taking your first swing. It is very important that you don’t just get out of the car and step right up to your first tee shot. Completing a quality, upper and lower body warm up will not only help prevent injury but will also maximize performance. For this article we will focus on your lower body:
Lower Body Active Warm Up
- Perform ankle warm up exercises such as drawing the alphabet with your foot from A-Z, making out the outlines of the letters with your movements. This will help loosen your ankles
- Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions of squats. Ensure your squat begins with a hip hinge backward (imagine sitting back into a chair) and maintain proper alignment. Keep your knees aligned with your second toe, with your feet straight. Do not turn your feet out or allow your knees to pinch in or travel forward beyond your toes
- Try some walking lunges with the same principals above
Warm up your calves by performing some gentle calf elongations.
- Stand with one foot in front of the other
- Keeping both heels on the ground and your back straight, bend the front knee until you feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg
- Hold the stretch for 15 seconds
- Perform 3 repetitions on each side
The rotation of your foot and ankle is extremely important, as is having sufficient trunk and hip rotation. You want to properly stretch and loosen up your back and hips in all planes of motion, making sure that you are able to rotate to the right and to the left equally.
The Parallel Club Swings exercise shown below is a good start before your golf game. It’s a great pre-game warm up that not only warms up your foot and ankle but also your hips, trunk, and spine.
- Standing in a golf stance, hold two clubs parallel to each other
- Swing the clubs from the backswing to the follow through, moving your arms and body together as one unit
- Keep your abdominals tight and your shoulders back
- Make sure your foot and ankle roll in and out throughout the movement to properly loosen them prior to play
Activating Your Calf Muscles
Activation of your calf muscles is also important prior to play. This exercise also can be done very easily on the course:
- Stand with your hips and shoulders level, and your knees straight
- Shift your weight up onto your toes, then bring your heels back down
- If balance is an issue for you, you can raise the heel of one foot at a time
- To increase the challenge, bend your knees as you perform the exercise and/or rock back and forth from your heels to your toes
Preventing injury and improving performance long term
If you play frequently, have dealt with injuries in the past, or are just starting out, look for a golf performance program in your area such as the one at the HSS Tisch Sports Performance Center. These programs are often offered by rehabilitation centers and golf courses, and can help analyze your stance and swing and put a plan together for you to improve your game while preventing injuries.
Injured and need help?
If you have an ankle, foot or any other kind of injury, one of our highly qualified clinicians are available to help. At HSS we have highly trained physical therapists, sport performance specialists, athletic trainers, massage therapists, and nutritionists, as well as Titleist Performance Experts who can guide you through your injury recovery and put you back on the golf course as soon as possible. With locations throughout the tristate area and beyond, HSS is available to help you get back on your feet.
Reviewed on January 4, 2021
Brad Erler is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Hospital for Special Surgery. He received his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from the University of Saint Augustine in St Augustine, FL in 2015. Prior to achieving his DPT, Brad received his Master’s degree and worked as an athletic trainer since 2006. Brad worked with both collegiate and high school athletes to prepare them for competition and rehab athletic injuries. Brad joined the HSS team in 2018 and has experience in a variety of orthopedic conditions, both surgical and non-surgical, in all age groups. Brad has a primary background in sports and manual therapy, but is also certified in Kinesiotape and is pursuing other advanced certifications.